Love Life: Find Your Joy

Last week I had been piecing together a blog post about how I initially became interested in the world of cars. More specifically the introduction of the DSM into my life, and how that brought about a fascination with tweaking motors. But with all the craziness that has transpired over the last week I didn’t seem right.

For those of you who have been living under a rock my home state of Colorado experienced massive floods. My town of Boulder getting a large brunt of it. This freak event has left many without homes for the foreseeable future, as well as many without in a temporary state such as myself. My basement flooded with 2-3ft of raw sewage during the second night of the mighty storm.

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As the basement (where a roommate and myself live) filled up with our and our neighbors excrement we loaded up the cars with overnight bags and drove off to find dry shelter for the night. Now I had been working on a few cars during the week preceding the floods, my own 96 Eclipse GSX included. My purple beast was up on all four corners on stands as I painted the wheels and was overhauling the brake system. That meant Thursday night all I had to drive was a borrowed WRX. Now this particular WRX has an aftermarket intake that sits at the lowest point of the engine bay for the coldest air intake. Practically this means it is as high as the middle of the 16” alloy rims. Literally a giant vacuum at the front of the car.

I drove myself and a roommate who has no family in the state around the town looking for roads out. But most were blocked off by anywhere from 1-3ft of rushing flood water. Not ideal for a moving, low riding vacuum. We eventually found our way to safety for the night after over an hour of terrified driving (what should have been a 10 minute commute). I was clutching the wheel, leaning forward in my seat just waiting to hear the sound of water combusting in the engine.

The next day (Friday) we all reconvened at our sewage filled home to gather more expensive belongings, not knowing how long we would be displaced. I found a small window in between the rain falls to complete the fastest brake job I’ve ever done on any car. Tossed on my freshly painted wheels, loaded up the GSX and escaped the town again for more shelter.

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Now in the midst of the chaos one finds themselves in a fight or flight pure survival mode. I was in flight mode. My home, my business and my life seemed to have been up-heaved. Friends scattered at different houses unreachable due to the storm. Unsure about future living. Where was the peace? Where was the joy?

I found it in two places. The next day after (Saturday) I found myself back in Boulder to assist a friend with car troubles on his Toyota Pickup. But that drive into town. There just aren’t words. For the 20 minute trek I found escape for once from the tumult of the storm. Poised in my leather seat, three toes at my feet and a 5-speed shift knob at my right hand it all came back why I love cars so much. 220hp roaring through all four tires, with 14lbs of boost spooling up and down through the combustion process. There was my joy. There was my grounding.

I found myself going in and out of town many more times for flood assistance of others and the GSX was perfect. The intake well hidden and free from water. Fresh Continental DWS’s on the 16” rims gripped to the road. It was my joy that took me to the ones I loved, and the ones who loved me. Friends offered shelter, food, and company to combat the depression and anxiety the weather blew in.

I have never felt closer to the people who really matter to me than in this time of extreme trouble. Phone calls, texts, emails and Facebook messages flying to make sure everyone was taken care of and safe. If there is one thing I love on this Earth more than cars, it’s the people that my cars bring me to.

Many are still apart from their loved ones, displaced from the normal life. While the rest of the town slowly picks up the pieces. Businesses are opening again, the University is buzzing about. But I challenge you to bring love this week. If only this week. Show some compassion in line at the grocery store. While on the bus. Hell, even walking down the street. Be joyous that you’re alive, and there is a community around you whether you like it or not. Find the nearest person to you and just hug them. SHOW them love.

On a final note (yes I know this is long) bring extra love to our men (and women) in blue. Many police officers, firefighters, and general first responders left vacations, their own flooding homes and even their families for days to make sure that you and I would be safe in a town torn apart. Give them a break, they’re people as well. And they need the same love that the rest of us do.

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A Means to an End: Why We Get Up

Upon meeting a new person I default to two general set of questions that I ask them. The first is:

“Why did you get up this morning? Why are you alive? Why not just kill yourself? What are you doing that’s useful? Or are you just aimlessly wandering around and wasting air for the rest of us?”.

The second question (more important in my opinion) is:

“What are you passionate about? What is that thing that when you sit down for a cup of coffee with somebody and a certain topic crops up that you could find yourself chatting about for hours with ease? The thing that lights a fire inside of you?”

Now I wouldn’t call assaulting a new relationship with these interrogations standard to the norm. That’s exactly why I ask them. I have substantial problems with people asking the vague and standard questions of: “What’s your major? What do you want to do? How was your day?” (and not actually giving a hoot about how your day really was). Those questions are bland, and usually courtesy questions. I’m not about courtesy questions, I’m about getting to know the real you. What were the events that shaped your identity into the person that stands before me? What do you struggle with on a constant basis? What do you really enjoy, and why you enjoy it?! Sub-standard relationships are boring and unfruitful to me, and for that I chose to ignore them for the more important and depth filled encounters that I come across.

I’ve been asking varieties of those two essential questions (why not kill yourself, and what are your passionate about) for around two years now to a host of individuals with varying responses. Usually the person is pushed back on their feet conversationally by the barrage and is uncertain as to how to answer such an inquiry. But after a few examples and guiding comments there arise some answers. Few people actually find themselves a substantial answer to the first one, but always some response to the second. Those range from a  love of music, working with animals, bringing a changing force to society, helping people or what have you. The beautiful thing about these discussions is that unless an honest answer is found the question will bite at the individual until such a conclusion has been reached.

However the questions always turn their attention from the person whom I asked them to, back to my own response. I found a long time ago that if you ask questions like that and don’t have answers for yourself it voids your authority to ask such questions. Because of this I give these inquiries much thought on a regular basis since the answers are malleable and dynamic. My response two years ago looks a little different than it does today.

My response lately to the first question came in the middle of a class I took last semester at my university. The answer had little to do with the social psychology class I was sitting in, but more to do with where I was at in my life. At this time I had just recently broken up a long-term relationship that meant very much to my on a personal level and the absence of said relationship left a void and many questions about my identity. When such identity questions arise I take them to what I consider my God, a higher power that has saved my life on many occasions. Now don’t discount this post, my ideas and thoughts due to my relationship with a higher being as I understand Him. Rather approach the rest of this with an open mind and save that debate and prejudice for a later discussion. I sat in my early morning lecture quite depressed and lost with the radical emotional changes of this break up. The professors words entering one ear and leaving the other with much ambivalence. I was asking why did I show up to class today, why am I still trying? I got a response. “Wake up my beloved son. There is life to be had today, come alive in me and be free.” Though there is nothing of substance to those words alone, but spoken to the depths of me at that particular time they hit me like a sack of bricks. The right answer for the right time. I wake up every morning because there is life to be had. I am not alive on this earth to wander aimlessly, I am here for a purpose. This answer lead into a response to the second question…

My passions are cars (why I’m writing on this blog), writing and people. I love people. Over the past two years I’ve had countless opportunities to walk alongside dozens upon dozens of young men and women as they search for the answer to the first question. To dig into the trials and tribulations they were suffering and provide help. There is nothing more satisfying to me than watching someone who is struggling so hard with life one day wake up and have the light behind their eyes beam up and everything click into place. A deeper understanding of why we wake up everyday. This gift I’ve been given to aid others in times of emotional wars brings me no greater joy and meaning to why I wake up. On the reverse side many of these men have been able to aid me when I’ve fallen down. A true connection and community in relation with others. What we are all searching for.

Now you might be asking, this is all fine and dandy, but what does this have to do with cars on an auto-blog? I’m glad you asked. I’ve been working on cars for about four years now, I’m a self-taught mechanic who’s owned more cars than years I’ve been alive. I have done every job on a vehicle except a transmission rebuild or a quality paint project (I have done a few rattle-cans and Rustoloem jobs). I’ve always been a tinker, I can remember when I was a kid I would take random objects in my house apart to see what was inside. I didn’t always get them back together though, my parents didn’t like that part….However through the process of learning how to work on cars and spin wrenches around I have found it to be a very meditative process for me. In essence car repair is quite simple. If broken, remove parts to access broken piece, replace then re-install in reverse order. Any gear-head will know though it isn’t always that simple. There are stuck bolts to deal with, rusted on pieces, broken knuckles and such. Why all of this is important however is how automotive related ideas can be the spark (means) to a new community and relationships (the end).

If you go to a car meet-up you will find an eclectic group of people who would not co-mingle otherwise. A skin-head with tattoos talking to 60-year-old man about a classic 454 V8 in a fastback mustang. A 16-year-old kid who works at McDonalds with a Honda Civic talking to a 29-year-old IT Consultant with an Integra Type-R. Cars open the door to a whole host of new interactions that otherwise wouldn’t exist. There is a love and bond created over the engineering quality of a vehicle, or the exterior design that just can’t be formed any other way. If you read websites such as Canibeat or Stanceworks their origin stories start out in the same fashion. Some guys bonded over a genre of cars that they loved and life-long families were born. Not just friendships, but brothers who carry each other when no one else will. The point of me working on my car isn’t the inanimate object itself, but it’s what I get out of that frame wearing rubber shoes in relation to others that makes it significant. The relationships I’ve formed through auto-work when someone heard that I can work on a car and didn’t want to take their truck into a shop where some guy named Gary doesn’t actually give a shit if the job is done right or not. But I do. Because I give a shit about you.

My roommate just swapped a 3s-GE Beams engine into his 6th generation Celica. Over the six weeks that this project took place we argued about how to do things, bickered over whose car was better and almost got into some fist fights. But even through that there is a bond that him and I share that started with our love of cars and torquing down bolts to the right specification that goes beyond the bickering. I ask him hard questions because I care about his overall well-being, I push him (sometimes too far) because I know he has more potential than what he is giving. That’s the end that matters, not the means of a car that will come and go. But the substance that is formed over them.

So why do you get up? What are you passionate about? Where does your meaning in this life lay?

matt and I